October Film’s and Channel 4’s ‘Comedy Edge’ ‘documentary’

This coming Thursday, Cutting Edge, a Channel 4 ‘documentary’, My daughter grew another head, follows journalists and writers as they apparently search for the more bizarre stories for real life magazines.
Of course as I write this, admittedly, I haven’t seen it. But it doesn’t look good. According to one preview it is ‘jaw-dropping’. I have to say its content – looking at stories such as ‘I snogged a swan’ and ‘I was eaten alive by a pet python’ – does not appear to be the type of features (thankfully) that Featureworld.co.uk has anything to do with. As my interviewees and clients know, I specialise in emotional real life – emotions, feelings, relationships and serious real-life issues that affect every one of us. As a qualified news journalist – sadly many journalists are not (tip: is your writer NCTJ qualified?) – much of my work involves providing NEWS to national newspapers. But yes, some stories do appear in magazines (some interviewees only want to be in their favourite magazine) and in my experience (over 25 years of it!!) the magazines I deal with always treat my interviewees with the utmost sensitivity. In fact, rather than sensationalise or trivialise issues, the women’s magazine industry as I know it is very loyal to its readers. For a start, those interviewees are treated with great professionalism – their copy is also usually read back to ensure it is accurate and of course interviewees are paid for taking part. If interviewees change their minds, their story is shelved.
But then let’s not forget who has made this documentary, if that is what it can be called (the title documentary once meant something serious but has been somewhat dumbed down of late.) This is a ‘documentary’ that it’s makers October Films and director James Quinn rang me about several times because ‘as someone right at the top of the selling stories industry, we feel the documentary really misses something and we need your comment.’ Doubtless it was the sort of flattery they hoped might entice me to get involved with such a project. However, they are an organistion that make other – in my opinion – dubious ‘documentaries’ such as Sun Sea and A&E and Rude Tube. They are ‘proud’ of other productions such as Curse of the Night Eaters (those people who sleepwalk to their fridge, apparently. Do such ‘interviewees’ really exist in real life or are they only in TV ‘documentary’ land …?) Another one they champion is Sleep with Me (eight couples, eight beds – they don’t elaborate but this doesn’t sound my sort of TV)
They are frankly NOT the type of ‘documentary maker’ that I would ever want to be in any way associated. So I declined.
Channel 4, Cutting Edge seems to have lost its ‘cutting edge’ of late. Perhaps it should rename itself ‘comedy edge.’ Whatever, it needs to get back to what it used to do best – making proper documentaries on serious issues – fast.
Needless to say, if ever there were a programme that I would like to distance myself from, this is it.
It is also the sort of comedy I steer my own interviewees and clients well clear of.
To see the sort real life stories that I write, go to www.featureworld.co.uk

Alison Smith-Squire

Alison Smith-Squire is a writer, journalist and media agent selling exclusive real life stories to newspapers, magazines and TV. She owns the sell my story website Featureworld.co.uk, which was set up to help ordinary people sell their stories to the press.